If all had gone according to plan, 200 passengers would be penguin-spotting in Antarctica right now on Scenic Eclipse. The luxury ship, the world’s first “discovery yacht”, has today written to customers postponing her launch for the third time.
Scenic has established itself at the luxury end of the river-cruise market, where it sails river ships to Europe, Russia and the Mekong. Scenic Eclipse, the line’s first foray into ocean cruising, was due to launch in August 2018 but strikes at the Uljanik shipyard in Croatia where she is being built meant the launch was put back, first to January this year, then to April.
It has now been delayed until August 15, when Eclipse is scheduled to sail from Reykjavik in Iceland to Quebec City in Canada.
The yard has been suffering severe financial problems for months. Workers have not been paid full salaries since August last year, leading to crippling strikes that halted all work on the ship.
Uljanik is not a big name in cruise-ship building. That honour goes to Italy’s Fincantieri, Germany’s Meyer Werft and France’s Chantiers de l’Atlantique. In a statement, Scenic said it chose the yard because it had a “strong history and excellent reputation for quality work”.
A spokesperson added that by the time things started to go wrong, the build had progressed too far to move to another yard.
Instead, Scenic took full ownership of the ship – an unprecedented step as cruise lines don’t usually take delivery until they see the vessel is completed – and employed 650 specialists and contractors to complete the work.
Scenic says the shortfall in lost time could not be made up. During one of the strikes the ship was blockaded so no one could work. The latest delay has also impacted work on Scenic Eclipse II, a sister ship originally scheduled to launch in May 2020.
It is a huge disappointment for those whose holidays have been cancelled. They will receive a full refund for the cruise and be compensated for any “reasonable” costs incurred with their travel plans, as well as receiving a 25 per cent credit for a future cruise.
It is also a major blow for Glen Moroney, Scenic’s owner, who has not only put his heart and soul into the build but has refused to compromise on the six-star luxury he has promised.
The new launch date is almost exactly one year after Scenic Eclipse was first due to set sail.
Last week Uljanik was bought by a consortium comprising the Croatian DIV group, a shipbuilding specialist, and Italy’s Fincantieri. Scenic has signed a Letter of Intent that will see the new consortium complete Scenic Eclipse I and II, and also start work on a new generation of polar-class discovery yachts.